Holy Ghost Festas -- Museums, Libraries, and Historical Organizations

Much of the history of the individual Holy Ghost societies has been lost or was never carefully recorded.

Years:  1885 — 2020

Much of the history of the individual Holy Ghost societies has been lost or was never carefully recorded.  Very few books that record the minutes of the early organizations exist, and those that do focus on the financial aspects of the societies.  But other Portuguese-American organizations, especially the fraternal benefit societies, have made efforts to record and preserve the experience of the Portuguese immigrants in California.

It must be noted that several organizations below have merged over the years under the umbrellas of the Portuguese Fraternal Society of America (PFSA) and Luso-American Financial, and no longer exist in their stated locations.

U.P.E.C. J.A. Freitas Library, San Leandro

In 1964, the U.P.E.C. Board of Directors provided space for the beginning of a library specializing in information on Portugal and Portuguese culture.  In 1965, the library was named in memory of Joseph A. Freitas and later became part of the U.P.E.C. Cultural Center.  Mr. Carlos Almeida, Fifth Secretary of the U.P.E.C. and Director and Founder of the Freitas Library and the U.P.E.C. Cultural Center was instrumental in the development of this important library.  He is also the author of the book, “Portuguese Immigrants”.

I.D.E.S. Museum, Hayward

Over the years, the I.D.E.S. Supreme Council had become the recipient of a great deal of I.D.E.S. memorabilia.  In the latter part of 1980, members of Council #15, Pleasanton, made a sizable contribution for establishing a museum.  The grand opening of the museum at the I.D.E.S. Home Office took place in May of 1982.  The I.D.E.S. sponsored the publication of “The Portuguese in California”, by August Mark Vaz.

S.E.S. Museum, Santa Clara

At the S.E.S. 85th Annual Convention in 1986, a resolution was introduced to establish an S.E.S. Museum for the collection, preservation, and display of items of historical value.  The resolution was adopted, and a Museum Committee was established to begin the work.  Items of interest about Portuguese culture and history were loaned or donated to the museum.  The museum was located at the Supreme Council Home Office in Santa Clara.

Portuguese Historical Center, San Diego

The Portuguese Historical Center (P.H.C.) was founded in 1977 as the result of a small bequest of books from Portugal and the vision of a few community leaders, spearheaded by Basilio de Freitas.  The P.H.C. has become the repository for the history of the Portuguese community in San Diego.  Currently housed at the U.P.S.E.S. Education Center across from the U.P.S.E.S. Portuguese Hall, the P.H.C. is comprised of a museum, library, research facility, and photographic library.  It is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 3:00 p.m.

The Portuguese Historical Center has enjoyed many firsts, including a monthly newsletter, the publication of several theses, and the publication of the book, “Azorean Customs”.  It has also produced a video about the history of the community and has sponsored the memorial to tuna fishermen located on Shelter Island.

S.P.R.S.I. Museum, Oakland

The S.P.R.S.I. Museum was located on the second floor of the Home Office in Oakland.  The organization was named after Queen St. Isabel, the organization’s patroness whose 13th century charity for the poor is the model for the Holy Ghost Festas.  The museum contains artifacts, banners, newspapers, and other documents related to the history of the organization.

Portuguese Historical Museum, San José

The Portuguese Historical Museum was dedicated in June 1997 at History Park in San José.  It was designed and built under the direction of the Portuguese Heritage Society of California with donations from the Portuguese-American community as well as public and private agencies in both California and Portugal.

The building has two floors of exhibits and is a replica of the first “império” built in San José that was the precursor of Five Wounds Portuguese National Church.  The building is fronted by a plaza with two bandstands.  The centerpiece of the plaza is a 19-foot modified replica of the “Rosa dos Ventos”, the Compass Rose located at the Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon.  In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum features special exhibits on Portuguese-American history and culture in California.

Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society, Sacramento

The P.H.C.S. was established in 1979 after ensuing urban development in the Riverside-Pocket area of Sacramento threatened the Portuguese history and heritage of the community.  Working with the local community and the City of Sacramento, the P.H.C.S. launched a successful campaign to preserve the area’s Portuguese history through the establishment of Portuguese Community Park, Portuguese street names in new neighborhoods, and a namesake school for the original Lisbon Schools established by Portuguese immigrants.

Since then, P.H.C.S. has expanded its interests in preserving the Portuguese history and heritage of communities throughout Northern California and educating its members about Portuguese culture.  P.H.C.S. also maintains a large collection of historical photographs and a modest library of books relating to the history and culture of Portugal.

Holy Ghost Festas: A Historic Perspective of the Portuguese in California

In 2001, members of the community gathered to work together on a history of the Holy Ghost Festas in California.  Under the direction of project coordinator Tony Goulart, more than 150 researchers and contributors researched the achievements and activities of societies in approximately 130 communities throughout the state.  This important book was presented to the public on April 14, 2002. 

This exhibit on the Holy Ghost Festas is based on the research work for this memorable book.

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